French MPs vote for terror laws

French MPs vote for terror laws

France’s left wing is deeply divided over the constitutional change. Source: Wikimedia

French parliamentarians have voted overwhelmingly to alter emergency provisions in the constitution, following the Paris attacks in November.

The lower house voted 317-199 to adopt the package with 51 abstentions. It added emergency powers to the constitution and allowed terror convicts to be stripped of their citizenship. The act still faces several obstacles before becoming law.

It needs to pass the senate and will need two-thirds support in a joint session of parliament, which could take months. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he was “satisfied” with the vote and that he was confident that senators would approve the legislation. Justice Minister Christian Taubira resigned last month in protest at the measures.

Critics say the threat to strip terror convicts of their French citizenship could only apply to those with a second nationality, making for two tiers of citizenship. The left and libertarian groups are deeply opposed to the measure, dividing the ruling Socialist Party. The attempt to amend the constitution was supposed to build consensus and national unity but has instead weakened President Francois Hollande’s position. His job security is already weakened by rising unemployment, Hollande’s self-imposed precondition to run for a second term as president.

“If this bill passes, it will pass narrowly. Meanwhile, it will have deepened divisions within the socialist party and probably alienate a moderate part of the centre-left electorate,” said Philippe Marliere, a political scientist at University College in London. “Regardless of the outcome, Hollande is likely to come out weakened, especially if there is no improvement on the economic front.”

Hollande will be relived by the vote after this week starting a ministerial shake-up by appointing foreign minister Laurent Fabius as chairman of the constitutional council. Fabius’s move from the Quai d’Orsay will be followed by a larger ministerial reshuffle as Hollande hopes to bolster his popularity before next year’s presidential election.

The gun and bomb attacks by Islamists who targeted a music gig, the national sporting stadium, restaurants and bars left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. Seven suspects blew themselves up during the attacks, with two being killed in subsequent police raids. The so-called Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Police are still hunting Salah Abdeslam, who has been on the run since the attacks.

The Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people died, said it was planning to hold events by the end of the year.

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